During these trying times, it's always nice to get some good news. Now, new research published in the journal Nature Plants is indicating that seventeen plants thought to be extinct are very much alive.
"Seventeen European endemic plant species were considered extinct, but improved taxonomic and distribution knowledge as well as ex-situ collecting activities brought them out of the extinct status. These species have now been reported into a conservation framework that may promote legal protection and in situ and ex situ conservation," write the authors of the new study.
But just because they have been found not to be extinct, does not mean they are safe yet. “Obviously, it’s fantastic news [when] plants are found not to be extinct. But . . . they are still critically endangered,” told The Scientist Rafaël Govaerts, a botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK who wasn’t involved in the study.
How were these species discovered?
Giulia Albani Rocchetti, a plant biologist and Ph.D. student at the University of Roma Tre in Rome, and her colleagues set out to investigate whether all the plants listed as extinct were indeed so. They began with a list of 36 officially extinct species compiled from national red lists, Govaerts’s study, and other reports.
They then double-checked with seed banks, botanic gardens, and public data repositories such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). This is where they spotted inaccuracies that led to the understanding that seventeen plants thought to be extinct were still around.
However, what is left to be seen is whether these plants will reach self-sustaining plant populations once more. Although they might not be extinct, they are dwindling in populations and efforts must be made to ensure their preservation. Here's hoping these little seedlings will survive and thrive!